HotAIR - CD/Book Review -- Manhattan Research, Inc.


Manhattan Research Inc.

What is it, aside from wonderful?

Reviewed by Gary Dryfoos, MIT, Cambridge, MA

Like Scott himself, this CD with accompanying book is difficult to categorize, and interesting in the extreme.

Manhattan Research Inc, 2 CDs by Raymond Scott, accompanied by a 144-page hardcover book, released in the year 2000.

Yes, I know I'm late with my review of Manhattan Research, Inc., about audio inventor Raymond Scott. I'm sorry.

First of all, what is it? Is it a small book (hardbound 140 pages) with a couple of illustrative CDs? Or is it a CD double-album with seriously overgrown liner notes? Scott was jealously protective of his audio designs, and the book/booklet reflects his sealed "hermetic" style: hard to get into, but opening up into a lab-ful of surprises.

To start with, there's 26 pages of great stuff before you even discover the table of contents. That's followed by essays and interviews with collaborators and fans like Robert Moog and Jim Henson. Scattered throughout are illustrations, patents, photos, sidebars, magazine excerpts, even circuit diagrams! Every time you start one page, your eye is pulled to something else.

And those CDs, those unearthly sounds! You have to read the liner notes to properly appreciate those wonderful sounds, and read the rest of book to understand the liner notes.

Although the book hardly mentions his earlier career as composer and band leader, Scott wrote some of the most recognizable unknown music in the world. Say you're watching a Bugs Bunny cartoon and there's a giant monster, or a rocket ship, or a big Krell machine with dials and electrodes and sparks every whichway. The musical accompaniment will have to be a Carl Stalling arrangement of Scott's "Powerhouse." Stalling loved Scott's tunes, and made frequent use of them.

Scott went from composing for a "quintette" of musicians to creating machines and circuits that could reproduce the increasingly strange music he heard in his head: devices with names like "participator" "circle machine" "electronium" "fascination" "karloff" and "clavivox".

He was a secretive genius who worked like a mediaeval craftsman, keeping his trade secrets and selling only the results: the soundtrack of that "Future" we were sure was just around the corner in the 50s and 60s. Advertising agencies bought his odd chirpy melodies and those intricate textures of bleeps, deedles, hrrrooons, and waauuggas to accompany their commercials for auto-batteries, power companies, snack foods, cough syrup, toys, and early computers. His work even created the atmosphere for an auto-maker's Futurama display at the 1964 New York World's Fair.

He rarely published his designs, but his name belongs up there in LEDs with Robert Moog, Leon Theremin, and Gyorgi Beep. He's not famous today. He oughta be. He was great.

Anyway, that's why my review is late.

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